Panasonic S1R Review

March 11, 2019 | Mark Goldstein |

Panasonic S1R First Impressions

The Panasonic S1R and Panasonic S1 are two new full-frame mirrorless cameras, offering 47 megapixels and 24 megapixels respectively and using the Leica L-mount. In development for the last 4 years, the Lumix S Series promises to offer “Full frame without compromise”.

We were shown a very early prototype version of the S1R/S1 back in September 2018 by Panasonic. We weren't allowed to take any photos of the camera or presentation slides, such was the high level of secrecy at the time.

Early prototype versions of the S1R and S1 were then displayed under glass at Photokina 2018, with a promised simultaneous launch date for both models of “early 2019”.

Fast forward to 31st January 2019, and we've been able to shoot with a working version of the Lumix S1R and S1 at the Global press launch in Barcelona, Spain. We've updated our initial first impressions of the cameras and new lenses with some more detailed observations.

So read on for our first impressions of the new Panasonic S1R and S1 35mm full-frame mirrorless cameras...

Panasonic S1R First Impressions

Panasonic have been targeting professionals with their high-end Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras, the Lumix GH5s, GH5 and G9, but they feel that they still have some room to expand upwards, hence their announcement of a completely new system camera with a new sensor format (for Panasonic).

Panasonic haven't forgotten their 10-year-old, extensive Micro Four Thirds line-up though, promising to focus on both categories, which will co-exist and grow simultaneously.

Today is all about the full-frame Lumix S1R and S1 and three new lenses, though - the Lumix S Pro 50mm F1.4, Lumix S Pro 70-200mm F4 O.I.S., and the Lumix S 24-105mm F4 MACRO O.I.S. (note the lack of "Pro" in the 24-105mm lens naming).

The higher-resolution Panasonic S1R is taking on the likes of the Sony A7R III, Nikon Z7 and Canon EOS R, while the Lumix S1's main rivals include the Nikon Z6, Sony A7 III and the EOS R (again).

Panasonic S1R and S1 Key Specifications

Panasonic S1R First Impressions

The S1R and S1 have completely new image sensors, a new Venus Engine processor, dual image stabilization (lens and body), an Artificial Intelligence deep learning system for fast and accurate auto-focusing, 4K 60P video recording, and high-quality lenses.

Here's a list of the key specifications for the Lumix S1R:

  • 47.3 megapixels, no low pass filter
  • 187 megapixel high resolution mode
  • 5-axis 5.5-stop in-body image stabilisation
  • 6-stop Dual Image Stabilisation system
  • 5.76-million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • 3.2-inch touchscreen LCD with 2.1-million-dot resolution
  • ISO 25600
  • 0.08 sec autofocusing down to -6EV
  • Eye AF and animal recognition
  • 6fps burst shooting with continuous AF/AE
  • 4K video at up to 60/50p
  • 6K photo mode at 30fps and 4K photo mode at 60fps
  • 400,000 frames shutter life
  • Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity
  • 1/320th second flash sync speed
  • Dual SD/XQD memory card slots
  • Weatherproof body
  • Size: 148.9 x 110.0 x 96.7 mm
  • Weight: 898g

Here's a list of the key specifications for the Lumix S1:

  • 24.2 megapixels, no low pass filter
  • 96 megapixel high resolution mode
  • 5-axis 5.5-stop in-body image stabilisation
  • 6-stop Dual Image Stabilisation system
  • 5.76-million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • 3.2-inch touchscreen LCD with 2.1-million-dot resolution
  • ISO 51200
  • 0.08 sec autofocusing down to -6EV
  • Eye AF and animal recognition
  • 6fps burst shooting with continuous AF/AE
  • 4K 60/50p 4:2:0 in 8 Bit internally, 4:2:2 externally
    (4K 60/50p 4:2:2 10 Bit via HDMI-output and 30p/25p/24p in 4:2:2 will be available later in 2019, along with V Log)
  • Full pixel readout at 30p
  • Variety of gamma curves, including Cinelike D/V, Like709 and Hybrid Log Gamma
  • 65:24 Film Panorama and 2:1 wide panoramic aspect ratios
  • 6K photo mode at 30fps and 4K photo mode at 60fps
  • 400,000 frames shutter life
  • Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity
  • 1/320th second flash sync speed
  • Dual SD/XQD memory card slots
  • Weatherproof body
  • Size: 148.9 x 110.0 x 96.7 mm
  • Weight: 899g

Panasonic S1R and S1 Design

Panasonic S1R First Impressions

The S1R and S1 are identical in their external design, differentiated only by their name badges.

Each camera has an XQD and SD dual memory card slot, a 3-axis tiltable LCD touchscreen, a perfectly sized grip, optimum button layout, and a market leading electronic viewfinder (EVF) from Sony. They have an extremely durable shutter (400,000 actuations), 100% weather sealing and low temperature resistance (down to -10 degrees).

The Panasonic S1R/S1 is a physically big camera, and the 50mm f/1.4 especially is a physically big lens. Weighing in at nearly 900g and measuring 148.9 x 110.0 x 96.7mm, the Panasonic S1R/S1 feels a lot more like a DSLR than a "traditional", smaller mirrorless camera.

Panasonic's new full-frame system is quite a lot bigger than Sony's and Nikon's, being more akin to Canon's in size with regards to both the body and the lens, although that's largely because Canon have opted to make their lenses faster than the norm.

Note that officially we were using a pre-production camera and the design may change before the final launch, although we wouldn't expect too many tweaks to the body at this late stage.

Panasonic S1R and S1 Key Controls

Panasonic S1R First Impressions

The key controls on the Panasonic S1R/S1 mirrorless camera include:

  • Top-panel LCD screen that can be backlit, largest in its class
  • WB/ISO/EV buttons
  • On/Off switch
  • Front/rear control dials
  • A lockable shooting mode dial, with the usual PASM modes, C1,2,3 modes and Panasonic's point-and-shoot iA mode
  • A drive mode dial, which sits underneath the shooting mode dial
  • A S/C/MF dial which surrounds the AF point button
  • On the rear, there's a Lock button on the left, Playback button, Movie record button, AF Area button surrounded by a Focus switch (S/C/MF), AF On button, AF Joystick, Quick menu button, circular scroll wheel, Menu/set button, Back button , Display button, and Delete button
  • 2 Function buttons on the front of the camera
  • V.mode button on the pentaprism
  • A physical aperture ring on all 3 lenses

Panasonic S1R and S1 Megapixels

Panasonic S1R First Impressions

At first glance this is the main key difference between the two cameras - the Lumix S1R is the high resolution model with 47 megapixels, just beating the Nikon Z7 to the title of "highest megapixel full-frame mirrorless camera", and the S1 is the lower resolution model with 24 megapixels.

Panasonic S1R and S1 High Resolution Mode

The S1R and S1 both offer a high resolution mode that combines eight individual shots,taken whilst shifting the sensor, into one super high resolution image - 96 megapixels on the S1 and a whopping 187 megapixels on the S1R! This equates to a 12,000 x 8,000 pixel file on the S1 and 16,736 x 11,168 pixel file on the S1R, which should prove a good test of your computer's processing capabilities!

The camera needs to be tripod mounted and it only really work for still subjects such as landscapes, but there is at least the option to surpress motion blur from subtly moving subjects like plants/trees in the wind.

Panasonic S1R and S1 ISO Speed

The S1R's highest ISO speed is ISO 25600, whereas the lower resolution S1 can go as high as ISO 51200, an extra stop. Both cameras feature new aspherical micro lenses positioned over each pixel to improve the light-gathering abilities of the sensor so that low noise levels are maintained at high ISO settings. As we were using a pre-production sample, we're not allowed to comment on the image quality just yet.

Panasonic S1R and S1 Autofocusing

Panasonic S1R First Impressions

Panasonic continue to use a combination of contrast detection and their unique DFD technology for auto-focusing on the S1R and S1. DFD technology calculates the direction and the amount to move the focus lens at a single movement by predicting it with 2 images that have different depth of field.

On the S1R and S1, the new Venus Engine, CMOS sensor and LUMIX S lenses communicate at up to 480fps, allowing the AF system to react in just 0.08 seconds. Autofocus also works in low light all the way down to -6 EV, comparable to the Canon EOS R.

In practice, the S1R's auto-focusing was fast and accurate in good lighting, but a little slower and more hesitant in really low-light, although we found that it almost always locked onto the subject regardless of the delay.

Eye-AF and animal recognition are part of the face detection system, with the camera's Advanced Artificial Intelligence Technology also able to detect humans, cats, dogs and birds. When the camera detects multiple subjects, you can use the rear joystick to select which one should be the primary point of focus, on the fly.

The S1R proved to be quick and tenacious at recognising and locking onto a subject's eye. Panasonic have implemented a different way of showing this in the viewfinder, using a crosshair rather than a small rectangular box, as with other camera systems, so if you've used, say, a Sony Alpha camera for a while, you might initially wonder why the Eye AF doesn't seem to be working, when it fact it is...

Panasonic S1R and S1 Dual Image Stabilisation

Both cameras offer 5.5 stops of in-body image stabilisation via a 5-axis system, rising to 6 stops of dual stabilisation when paired with a stabilised lens such as the new Lumix S 24-105mm and 70-00mm lenses, which feature 2-axis stabilisation. Panasonic have also added a new I.S. Status Scope, which displays a graphic interpretation of the current vibration levels.

Out in the field, the ability to hand-hold a 70-200mm lens at the long end of the focal range, see a perfectly stabilised preview in the viewfinder and capture the image at a much slower shutter speed than you'd normally get away with proved to be a particularly strong suit of the S1R/S1. This is definitely the most effective image stabilisation system that we've experienced on a full-frame camera.

Panasonic S1R and S1 Electronic Viewfinder

Panasonic S1R First Impressions

The Panasonic S1R and S1 are the first cameras to use Sony's new 5.76-million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, even before Sony have used it on any of their cameras! This is currently the highest resolution viewfinder on the market, although the upcoming Zeiss ZX1 is set to beat it with a 6-million-dot display.

Looking through it proved to be a joy, even in very low-light where EVFs traditionally struggle. It's also possible to change the magnification of the EVF from 0.78x to 0.76x or 0.74x to best suit your eyesight, activated via the V.Mode button.

Panasonic S1R and S1 LCD Screen

Both cameras have a 3.2-inch touchscreen display on the rear with 2.1-million-dot resolution, mounted on a tri-axial tilt mechanism that allows it to flip out for low or high angled viewing in both portrait and landscape orientations.

Panasonic S1R and S1 Burst Shooting

We'd expected the Panasonic S1 to offer quicker burst shooting than the S1R due to having fewer megapixels to process, but surprisingly both cameras offer exactly the same rates of 9fps with focus locked at the first frame, or 6fps with continuous focusing, a respectable but hardly earth-shattering rate. In comparison, the Sony A7 III and A7R III both offer 10fps burst shooting, much faster than the Lumix S1and S1R.

The number of recordable images in a single burst is where the two cameras differ - the Lumix S1 can shoot more than 90 Raw images and 999 JPEGs in a single burst, whereas the higher resolution S1R can only manage 40 Raw and 50 JPEGs.

Panasonic S1R and S1 4K Video

Panasonic S1R First Impressions

This is the one area, other than the number of megapixels, where the two cameras differ the most. Both models can shoot 4K video at up to 60/50p, but the S1 additionally features full pixel readout at 30p, a wider variety of gamma curves, and extra panoramic aspect ratios.

At launch both the S1R and S1 are only capable of recording 4:2:0 in 8 Bit internally, 4:2:2 externally, which is sure to disappoint anyone hoping for 10 Bit footage, but fear not, as Panasonic have promised that 4K 60/50p 4:2:2 10 Bit via HDMI-output and 30p/25p/24p in 4:2:2 will be available later in 2019, along with V Log, for the S1 camera at least (the S1R won't have a similar upgrade).

Panasonic S1R and S1 Dual Card Slots

Both cameras feature dual memory card slots, one for SD USH-II cards and the other for XQD cards. Compatibility with CFexpress is due to be added in the near future.

Panasonic S1R and S1 Battery Life

Both cameras use a 7.4V, 3050mAh, 23Wh Li-on battery, which provides 400 images on a single charge on the S1 and 380 on the S1R when using SD cards (slightly less for XQD). That can be substantially boosted to 1,100 shots using the Power Save LVF mode.

In real world use, we took around 300 stills and a few short videos and the remaining battery life was about 50%, so markedly better than the CIPA rating without having to use the power save mode.

The S1R and S1 are also USB Power Delivery compatible for quick charge/power supply, an industry first.

Panasonic S1R and S1 Connectivity

Panasonic S1R First Impressions

Both cameras offer a range of different connectivity options, including:

  • Bluetooth
    Create a constant, low-power connection between the S1R and S1 and a smartphone/tablet to transfer images and video using the new Lumix Sync smartphone app, and easily share camera setting between multiple S1R/S1 bodies.
  • Wi-fi
    Remotely control the S1R/S1 via a 5GHz or 2.4Ghz wi-fi connection using a smartphone or tablet and the new Lumix Sync smartphone app, and transfer images and video
  • Tethering
    Use the Lumix Tether software to connect the S1R/S1 to a PC and remotely control it, plus live view streaming and direct transfer of pictures as they are recorded

Panasonic S1R and S1 Photo Modes

The Flat picture profile produces JPEGs with flat contrast and saturation as a flexible starting point for post-processing.

The brand new Hybrid Log Gamma mode is designed for display on the latest Panasonic HLG-compliant 4KTV via a HDMI cable connection, offering 3x more dynamic range than a standard image. Pictures taken with the HLG modes can be saved as HSP files in 8K resolution, as well as in JPEG and RAW formats.

Panasonic Lumix S Lenses

Panasonic S1R First Impressions

Panasonic have also unveiled three new lenses for their full-frame system, called the Lumix S Series of lenses. There will be a 50mm f/1.4, 24-105mm f/4 and 70-200mm f/4 available at the same time as the launch of the S1R and S1 cameras. Note that contrary to many misinformed rumours, both zooms have a constant f/4 aperture, rather than f/2.8.

The three lenses offer ultimate high resolution, high speed auto-focusing, dual image stabilization, weather-resistant design and impressive solidity and bokeh. All three have a physical aperture ring, although there was no obvious way to de-click it for video use on the early prototype of the 50mm f/1.4.

All three also have a focus clutch mechanism allowing instant switching from autofocus to manual adjustment at any time. They are also claimed to excel when used for video as they are designed to suppress focus breathing during recording.

Panasonic Lumix S Pro 50mm F1.4

The Lumix S Pro 50mm F1.4 is the pick of the three launch lenses, promising edge-to-edge sharpness and no less than 11-aperture blades for beautiful bokeh effects. Note that unlike the two zooms, it doesn't offer built-in image stabilisation, relying instead on the camera body.

Panasonic Lumix S Pro 70-200mm F4

By contrast, the S Pro 70-200mm lens offers 6-stops of OIS when paired with the S1R/S1 cameras, the highest rating for a full-frame mirrorless camera, and 9 aperture blades. We'd have loved to have seen a maximum aperture of F2.8 rather than F4, but that would inevitably have made the lens even bigger.

Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm F4

The 24-105mm is not designated as a Pro lens, unlike the 50mm and 70-200mm, although we're not sure if or how that affects image quality. Panasonic themselves say "While all interchangeable lenses of the LUMIX S Series provide high performance, those marked “LUMIX S PRO” push the boundaries of optical performance further for approval against Leica’s stringent standards." It does have a very handy 0.5x macro feature though, and offers the same 6-stops of OIS as the 70-200mm zoom.

Panasonic Lumix S Lens Roadmap

Panasonic have also published a full-frame lens roadmap, with 10 or more lenses in total due for release by the end of 2020, a very promising start.

In addition, Sigma have committed to releasing 14 new L-mount lenses by the end of 2019.

Panasonic S1R and S1 Accessories

Panasonic S1R First Impressions

The S1R and S1 cameras are compatible with a new range of accessories, which include:

  • Remote Shutter (DMW-RS2)
  • Eyecup (DMW-EC6)
  • Battery Grip (DMW-BGS1)
  • Battery Charger (DMW-BTC14)
  • Current External Flashguns (DMW-FL580L / FL360L / FL200L)

L-Mount Alliance

But that's not all. In an exciting and rather unprecedented move, Panasonic have joined forces with Leica and Sigma to form the L-mount Alliance. All three companies will develop full-frame cameras and lenses that use the Leica L-mount standard.

Along with Panasonic's three new Lumix S lenses, Leica already have eight native L-mount lenses (five primes and three zooms), along with a range of adapters that allow Leica TL, M, S, R and Cine lenses to be used on L-mount cameras.

With Sigma also introducing their own L-mount lens range, this ensures that there will be many lenses available for the Panasonic S1R and S1 from day one, at a wide range of price points, which gives them a distinct advantage over Nikon's and Canon's fledgling full-frame systems, and allows them to quickly play catch-up with the market leader, Sony, who now have 30 native e-mount lenses.

Panasonic also told use that more companies may follow and join the L-mount Alliance, if they apply and meet the standards.

Lumix Pro

Lumix Pro is a brand new global marketing platform - www.lumix-pro.com – which was also launched at Photokina 2018. With the strapline “Pro is more than product”, Panasonic will offer 5 different tiers of support to their users – Basic, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Black – via a truly global program. The company are also set to refresh their Global Ambassador program in the next few weeks.

So what do you think? Leave a comment on the new Panasonic full-frame mirrorless system below...

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